Testo in lingua inglese della lettera inoltrata dagli studiosi e dalle associazioni italiane alla Presidente e al Segretario Generale della Assemblea Parlamentare del Consiglio d’Europa (APCE), concernente il “Rapporto sulla protezione dei minori contro gli eccessi delle sette”.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe
Mr. Wojciech Sawicki,
Secretary General of PACE
Members of APCE
Palais de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Report Mr. Rudy SALLES “The protection of minors against excesses of sects”
ITALY, 31st March 2014
On 3rd of March 2014, an important Report on the protection of children against the excesses of the so-called cults and which is the result of long and accurate efforts of the French rapporteur Rudy Salles, has been adopted by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Scholars, Italian associations for the protection of children’s right, centres and association of research, information and protection of individuals and families against high-risk groups that all together sign this letter, wish to express their sincere gratitude and appreciation for the Report’s content, which in this case identifies and suggests essential programmes and intervention policies and/or their strengthening, in order to face effectively the danger represented by the so-called cults and protect concretely the interest of the child from all forms of brutality, abuse and negligence.
We can only hope for its approval, certain that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe play a key role in contrast to this worrying social phenomenon, which is constantly growing and involves an increasing number of adolescents and children also through the increased use of Internet.
International scientific contributions report unanimously that minors introduced in abusing cult contexts often suffer the systematic violation of their fundamental rights (Paul Martin, Michael D. Langone and Gary Eisenberg, Markowits and Halperin, Susan Landa, Stephen A. Kent and Doni Whitsett, Singer and Lalich, etc.), as Jill Mytton’s recent research published by The British Psychological Society (1) has highlighted that children born and raised within high-risk groups will present significant psychological and psychosocial problems, not only after leaving the group but also in their adulthood. In addition, on the basis of the results of an accurate study carried out by the University of Toronto (2), children who are victims of coercive realities will present more prolonged remission periods of depression than those who were not subject to this kind of traumas. As far as we know, another important research project approved by Human Subjects in Research Committee at California State University, is in progress. Its title is “On Our Own: How Children Of Cults Manage to Survive in the ‘Outside’ World” by Dr. Jania Lalich, renowned international expert on cults and extremist groups.
In our activities, we are in daily contact with people who are victims of totalitarian organisations and manipulative relational dynamics, as well as with individuals born and raised within high-risk groups, who often experienced horrific abuse and violence. On the other hand, even the judicial reports inform us on horrific cases occurred inside abusive cultist movements. An example which hit the international headlines is that of the murderous group called “Le bestie di Satana” (The Beasts of Satan), whose followers are guilty of the macabre murder of some young people, who were members of the same organisation including the minor Fabio Tollis (3).
While we are writing this letter, criminal proceedings are ongoing against Rodolfo Fiesoli, the founder of the Forteto Community, and others who are accused of sexual abuse on minors. Forteto is a community for the custody of minors but, as clearly shown in the recent and substantial investigation by the Commission of Inquiry of Tuscany (4), it was considered as a real abusing cult. The founder, known as “the Prophet” has been able to act undisturbed for over forty years, despite the fact that in 1976 he had been arrested at the request of judge Carlo Casini, who opened proceedings for sexual abuse occurred in the community. In the 80’s some Board and parliamentary inquiries underlined the undue influence on the young community’s guests. Later, in 1985 the Court of Appeal of Florence sentenced Fiesoli – judgement confirmed by the Court of Cassation- to two years of imprisonment for abuse, violent acts and corruption of minor. (Judgement which pointed out “the incitement by Forteto’s members to the breakdown of relationships between the children entrusted to them and their biological parents” and the incitement to “a common practice of homosexuality”). Again, on 13th July 2000, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy to pay a fine of 200 million Liras as compensation for moral damages after entrusting two children to Forteto community. In the judgement (case Scozzari and Giunta against Italy – appeal No. 39221/98 et 41963/98), the Court deemed appropriate to comment that the fact that people convicted for maltreatment and abuse could still play an active role in the community raised serious doubts. In December 2011, Rodolfo Fiesoli was finally arrested again for maltreatment and abuse of children entrusted to Forteto community and on 4th October 2013 the trial against the leader of this “community-cult” and other 22 suspected persons was started in Florence.
In Italy, as a result of a plea of unconstitutionality, the Constitutional Court, by judgement No. 96 dated 8th June 1981, quashed the criminal offense of plagiarism from the legal system, because it was in contrast “with the principle of compulsory nature of the case, contained in absolute reservation of law in criminal matters, enshrined in Art. 25 of the Italian Constitution”. The Constitutional Court therefore established the vagueness of the wording of the criminal offense of plagiarism <<claiming the non-verifiability of the fact considered in this case, the impossibility of its assessment with logical and rational criteria, the intolerable risk of unlawful acts>>.
After over thirty years from the repeal of the offense of plagiarism, however, in the social community, the need for protection of man’s individual personality and his psycho-physical integrity is more and more important: in short, the need for the protection of the individual identity as thinking, unique and unrepeatable human being. This means in particular, to protect the human being, at the time of formation and development of his personality, from “obsessive” interference and also protect him from various behaviors which may compromise his integrity, that of his psyche and his social functionality. Furthermore, all these needs, as well as finding implicit recognition in Articles 2 and 3 of the Italian Constitution, establish the basic prerequisite so as the rights of freedom can be effectively enjoyed and the duties of solidarity consciously fulfilled, which the Constitution ensures and requires (*). As noted by distinguished jurists too, after the repeal of the offense there was a dangerous gap in the protection of personality against plagiarism, and even the rules of the Criminal Code, such as the “circumvention of incapable” (Article .643 CC), are not applicable to situations involving psychological, behavioral and physiological conditioning of the followers of cultist movements (**). The Secretariat-General of the Presidency of the Italian Republic – Office of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Relations – (SGPR Protocol dated 13/6/2007 0066076 P OLA), reported “…we agree that the repeal of offense of plagiarism due to lack of certainty resulted in a dangerous regulatory vacuum which should have been filled by appropriate and expeditious legislative actions.”
One of the most important Italian association for protection of minors, Telefono azzurro, which since 2003 has been operating on behalf of the Ministry of Communications, Ministry for Equal Opportunities and Ministry of Labour, theServizio emergenza infanzia (Childhood Emergency Service), in its 5thNational Report on the Status of Minors and Adolescents (2005), carried out together with EURISPES (prestigious Italian Institute which operates in the field of research), observed that “the involvement of minors in cults is a quite complex phenomenon and difficult to explain: that is why it should not be ignored because, even though in a barely visible way, minors are involved both as victims (through psychological and sexual abuse) and offenders (by using alcohol and drugs up to extreme forms of crime). Sexual abuse on minors is a tangible reality as demonstrated by the figures provided by the Central Direction of the Criminal Police.”
Also in the 9th National Report on the Status of Childhood and Adolescence (5) published in 2009, the rapporteurs of this document highlighted dramatically how “the children victims of cults are children who “do not exist”, forgotten, ignored and denied victims” and is also observed that “children who managed to get out of cults in which they were subject to abuse and violence can have levels of physical, psychological, relational, emotional, cognitive and behavioural development which differ very much from the standard: they seem younger than they are with regard to decision-making capabilities, judgement, memory and language. The consequences a child who is victim of these cults may experience are countless at various levels: physical, cognitive, emotional, relational, in constructing their identity…”.
In March 2006, an important report entitled “Report on the condition of childhood and adolescence in Italy” made in draft form by the National Centre of Documentation and Analysis of Childhood and Adolescence on behalf of the National Monitoring Centre and Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, was discussed and approved by the National Monitoring Centre for Childhood. In the large section dedicated to the situation of minors involved in the so-called “cults”, on the one hand it was highlighted how the phenomenon was largely present in our country and the serious implications for minors themselves; on the other hand, it was highlighted the need to implement appropriate informative prevention policies for minors’ protection. In the report, it was also highlighted how, after the release of the report called “Religious cults and new magical movements in Italy” made by the Executive Committee for Information and Security Services of the Ministry of Interior in February 1998, “the initiatives aimed at “protecting” these new cults multiplied, the cults started a counteroffensive in the name of religious freedom with proactive aggressiveness …in addition to the obvious defence strategy, some cults used tactics to tighten the secrets in various circuits of initiation and, while they are doing public campaigns for religious freedom in the press and on TV, within internal “private” associations of the initiates, oaths of secrecy and silence obligations become more and more pressing” and similar “reactions had also occurred after the publication of the report on cults prepared by the Council of Europe in 1999” (6).
Moreover, according to the report made in 2010 by the working group chaired by Dr. Luca Bernardo (director of Ambulatorio per il Disagio degli Adolescenti – Surgery for adolescents’ discomfort – at Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Milan and, at the time, it was president of the Committee for Bullying of Ministry of Education, Research and University), 240,000 minors and adolescents would have come into contact, only in that year, with “cults” or groups linked to Satanism (7).
In a recent interview with the well-known Italian magazine Panorama, Dr. Maria Carla Bocchino, 1st Director in charge of the Analysis Division of the Operational Central Service (SCO), of the State Police, reported the alarming rise in our country of young people attracted, in particular through the web, by groups of acid Satanism; these data are also confirmed by the activity of Postal Police. The risk band found among the new “sympathisers” is between 12 and 22 years old (8).
Notwithstanding, as reported by the member of parliament Rudy Salles, unfortunately only some Member States appear to have accepted, and to the present day, the information contained in the many Recommendations of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the cult phenomenon and in particular those provided by Recommendation No. 1412 (1999), we bitterly must confirm that neither our country has taken measures about the protection of the most vulnerable individuals and of children involved in cultist movements.
In Italy, Parliamentary Committees aimed at minor victims of cults have never been activated, but only a Consultation on the phenomenon of mental manipulation of vulnerable individuals with particular reference to the phenomenon of the so-called cults (9), which unfortunately has not been concluded. The audition held in the Room of the 2nd standing Judiciary Committee of the Senate of a young woman who had been part, together with her mother and sister, of a small syncretic cult headed by a charismatic leader was the most intense and dramatic moment of the investigation carried out by the parliamentary committee. In the case mentioned, the Court of Cassation, VI Criminal Division (10), showed that “the second-instance judgement reconstructed the facts of the case and highlighted the unlawful behaviour of the defendant against the affected parties (including two minors) held for a long period (about three years), through the forced imposition of food against one of the minors, even by using physical violence, as closing her nose despite the obvious intolerance, the compulsion to eat again what she had vomited, the frequent nocturnal awakenings or the absolute impediment to rest in order to participate in the rituals of salvation, the conditioning of the most basic manifestations of life, as well as threats of “divine” punishments or serious events in case of disobedience to her directives.”
Shocking events, similar to those described, concerning the involvement of minors in cults groups or organisations were recalled in the Judicial Inspection No. 4-08890 session No. 855 dated 18th December 2012 (16th Legislature), presented by the senators Gallone and Allegrini. However, this question remained unfulfilled (11).
Currently, no answers have been provided by the questioned departments, not even regarding the new questions presented by other Italians MPs, who repeatedly urged our leaders to due attention about the phenomenon in question, noting also, as we read in the texts of Acts of Judicial Inspection (12 and 13) that only voluntary associations and centres of information and research active in the country perform “a valuable and continuous work of information on the phenomenon and support to victims and their families; in this way, they perform a free integration action, which is often a real substitution of the public action, by taking advantage of the advice and cooperation of experts in the fields of mental health, criminology and law”.
Moreover, as it can be seen from the following extract of the same texts, “a repeated and serious libellous campaign committed particularly on web network has been carried out, through which some subjects, as well as minimize the aforementioned social phenomenon, systematically discredit with manifestly false and tendentious arguments the representatives of the voluntary sector, police forces and institutions involved in this specific and sensitive field, as well as the victims of controversial and/or abusing realities”.
It is not our intention to enter into the merits of considerations concerning the several letters criticising the Report of MP Rudy Salles, which were addressed to your attention and which we learn about on the Internet, fully aware that appropriate assessments are under the responsibility of the recipients, however, as regards the letter of the Italian scholar Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio, which in particular refers to discrimination phenomena that have been occurring for three decades in our country against religious and/or spiritual minorities and against children belonging to these minorities, we cannot avoid highlighting that these assertions have no basis and objective feedback. No national or European report, not even the American report on religious freedom, have ever reported the existence of discriminatory acts occurred in Italy against religious and/or spiritual minorities and against children belonging to minority groups; rare episodes of intolerance, in particular against the faithful affiliated to majority groups, have been reported. The promotion and protection of people belonging to religious and spiritual minorities and the defence of religious and cult freedom are, however, among the priorities of the Italian domestic and foreign policy. Publicly supporting facts which are completely unfounded not only disconcerts the undersigned, but also can give rise, in terms of public opinion, to pernicious alarmism.
We believe that the worried words of one of the world’s leading experts of the phenomenon, Dr. Michael Langone, Executive director of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), can summarise the serious situation which a lot of children, victims of these high-risk groups, are living “Investigation of this field has at times been upsetting. The abuses to which children have been subjected can be horrendous… And the lack of concern and action about this problem is shameful..” (14)
Sure of interpreting, also and above all, the feelings of those people we are assisting and protecting with our activity, we hope that the commendable work done by the rapporteur Rudy Salles concerning the protection of minors against the excesses of cults is favourably accepted so that every individual can actually enjoy the right to exist as a child and to grow up as a free man.
FA.VI.S. Associazione Familiari delle vittime delle sette, Onlus – Rimini
Maurizio ALESSANDRINI, President
Ce.SAP Centro Studi sugli Abusi psicologici, Onlus – Noci (BA)
D.ssa Lorita TINELLI, President
Osservatorio sui diritti dei Minori – Milan
Dr. Antonio MARZIALE, President
O.N.A.P. Osservatorio Nazionale Abusi Psicologici – Florence
D.ssa Patrizia SANTOVECCHI, President
Associazione Prometeo Onlus, Lotta alla pedofilia e tutela infanzia violata – Bergamo Massimiliano FRASSI, President
Centro Studi Giù Le Mani Dai Bambini – San Benedetto del Tronto (AP)
Aldo VERDECCHIA, President
Associazione SOS Antiplagio Novara
Giovanni RISTUCCIA, President
Associazione Tutor onlus – Potenza
Dino POTENZA, President
Associazione Arciragazzi Bologna – Prevenzione e tutela contro gli abusi sui minori –Prevenzione del disagio giovanile
Serena FRASCAROLI, President
Gruppo Educhiamoci alla Pace – Bari
Gianpaolo PETRUCCI, President
ANSFO Associazione Nazionale “Sostenitori delle Forze dell’Ordine” – Rome
Massimo MARTINI, President
Associazione Genitori Separati per la Tutela dei minori – Città di Castello (PG)
Prof. Ugo VALENTINI, President
Prof. Giovanni PANUNZIO, idr, founder of Osservatorio Antiplagio – Cagliari
Dr. Giampiero MARCATO, president Associazione Menti Libere Nichelino (To)
Prof.ssa Anna Maria GIANNINI – Psychotherapist, full professor at the Department of Psychology – Faculty of Medicine and Psychology – Director of Monitoring Centre of Psychology of Law and Security of the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. Manager of CEPOL courses (Academy of European Police) concerning the modules Dealing with Victims of Crime.
Prof.ssa Anna OLIVERIO FERRARIS, full professor of Developmental Psychology at Università degli Studi La Sapienza in Rome – Psychologist, psychotherapist, writer – Member of Consulta Qualità Rai and National Bioethics Committee. Director of the journal of Italian psychologists “Psicologia Contemporanea”
Dr. Prof. Alessandro MELUZZI, surgeon, specialist in psychiatry. Psychologist, psychotherapist – Turin. Lecturer of Psychiatry – Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore in Rome, branch of Moncrivello (VC). Temporary lecturer of Genetics of Human Behaviour, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery – School of Specialization in Clinical Psychology of Università di Siena
Prof. Alberto FORTI, Specialist in Child Neuropsychiatry, Neurology and Internal Medicine.
Lecturer at Università degli Studi in Urbino “Carlo Bò”
Prof. Francesco BRUNO – Criminologist, lecturer of Special Pedagogy, Department of Foreign Languages and Education Science – Università della Calabria
Prof. Natale FUSARO – Specialist in Criminal Law and Criminology – expert in Post-University Education at
Università degli Studi La Sapienza – Rome
Gen. B. dei Carabinieri Sol. Ernesto DI SERIO, lecturer of Criminology at Università Internazionale Scienze Sociali – Rome
Prof. Vincenzo MASTRONARDI, psychiatrist – Chairman of Forensic Psychopathology and Director of Monitoring Centre of behaviours and deviance – Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry – Università La Sapienza in Rome
Prof. Simonetta COSTANZO Criminologist, psychoanalyst, psychologist. Researcher and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Calabria (Unical)
Prof. Nunzio di NUNNO, coroner, lecturer of Criminology at Università del Salento
Prof. Matteo VILLANOVA, chairman of Child Neuropsychiatry, Criminology, preventive medicine and forensic psychopathology – President of “OLTREE” Osservatorio Laboratorio Tutela e Rispetto Emozionale dell’Età Evolutiva of Università ROMA 3, Rome – Teacher at Centro Italiano Ipnosi Clinica sperimentale in Turin
Dr. Luigi CORVAGLIA, executive psychologist at DDP ASL Bari, essayist, scholar of Department of Criminology and Psychiatry at Università del Salento – Lecce
Prof. Roberto MONGARDINI, lecturer of “Phylosophical principles of human rights” Faculty of Law – Università telematica “Niccolò Cusano” in Rome; Lecturer of “Human rights” in Master 2° lev
Dr.ssa Beatrice UGOLINI, Criminologist – Bologna
Dr. Giorgio GAGLIARDI, psychotherapist – Como
Dr. Armando DE VINCENTIIS, psychologist and psychotherapist – consultant at CICAP (Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sulle Pseudoscienze)and coordinator of Gruppo Cicap Puglia
Dr.ssa Alessandra LUMACHELLI President of ETTAsos, collaborator of FONDAZIONE MOVIMENTO BAMBINOnon-profit organization
U.P.R.C. Unità Prevenzione Rischio Criminologico – Rome
Dott.ssa Imma GIULIANI, National Manager
Sindacato Autonomo della Polizia di Stato SAP – Rome
Gianni TONELLI, President
Associazione ConDivisa – Sicurezza e Giustizia
Dr.ssa Barbara DE SERIO co-manager at Laboratorio di Studi e Ricerche per l’Infanzia at Università di Foggia
Dr.ssa Olimpia QUATTROMINI, clinical, developmental and relational psychologist, Human Resources, expert in general, juvenile and prison Criminology, president of Associazione Malattie Rare Alta Murgia
Dr. Sergio CARUSO, Psychopedagosist, clinical criminologist expert in minor profiling and prevention – Cosenza
Dr.ssa Sonia MELGIOVANNI, Psychologist, Specialist in Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, PhD in Clinical Psychology – Bari
Dott. Paolo POZZETTI, Clinical psychologist, specialist in Conduct and mood disorders – Register of Lazio
Dr.ssa Mary GROSSI, Psychologist and Psychotherapist – Fermo (FM)
Dr. Fabio NESTOLA, President of Fe.N.Bi. (Federazione Italiana per la Bigenitorialità), researcher, scholar of separations and disputed minors, curator of Fe.N.Bi Study Centre
Dr.ssa Lillia D’OTTAVI, Pharmacist, ex Counsellor of Lazio Region
Sen. Sol. Antonino CARUSO, President of Justice Commission of the Italian Senate from 2001 to 2006, XIV Legislature
On Tiziano ARLOTTI, Deputy XVII Legislature Chamber of Deputies
Sol. Giselda CIANCIOLA, PhD in Criminology, deviance and social change, author of the book “I reati contro le donne e i minori” ( Giuffrè ed.)
Sol. Vincenzo GALLO Court of Sala Consilina (SA)
(Lawyer of the family of Chiara Marino, the young girl murdered by Bestie di Satana)
Sol. Tania RIZZO criminal lawyer, Coordinator of A.I.G.A. Regione Puglia
and President of “La.P.E.C. e Giusto Processo” territorial section of Lecce
Sol. Nicola PILEGGI Court of Brindisi
Sol. Carla RUFINI Court of Rome
Sol. Eloisa MINOLFI Court of Milan
Sol. Lia STAROPOLI Court of Vibo Valentia
Sol. Marco MARZARI Court of Milan
Sol. Lorenzo IACOBBI Court of Taranto
Dr.ssa Claudia VINCENZI – author of the book “Plagiata” (Mondadori ed.)
Dr.ssa Rossana PESSIONE, professional journalist, writer, Managing Director of press agency Omnia Group
Ivano GAIONI, writer, author of the book “Ladri di Anime” (abuse of minors)
The British Psychological Society http://www.bps.org.uk/news/children-cults-face-later-problems
- “Bouncing back: remission from depression in a 12-year panel study of a representative Canadian community sample” Esme Fuller-Thomson, Marla Battiston, Tahany M. Gadalla, Sarah Brennenstuhlhttp://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-013-0814-8
- BESTIE DI SATANA. JUDGEMENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL
- FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY IN TUSCANY ON CHILDREN CUSTODY REGARDING THE FORTETO. PART TWO FROM PAGE 11. http://www.consiglio.regione.toscana.it/upload/9/CM28/evidenze/evi214.pdf
- THE 9TH NATIONAL REPORT ON THE STATUS OF CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTShttp://www.osservatorionazionalefamiglie.it/osservatorioprova/images/altrepubb/rapporto_nazionale_infanzia_adolescenza.pdf
- “REPORT ON THE CONDITION OF CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN ITALY”
- Article taken from national newspaper IL GIORNO
- Article with the interview of Dr. Maria Carla Bocchino
- SENATE OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC. Hearing about “INQUIRY IN THE PHENOMENON OF MENTAL MANIPULATION OF WEAK PERSONS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE PHENOMENON OF THE SO-CALLED “CULTS”http://www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/DF/284768.pdf
Supreme Court of Cassation Criminal Division VI 25701/12 Judgement No. 631 General register No. 33160/2011http://www.favis.org/favis2/images/valmaggi%20sentenza%20cassazione
- SENATE OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC legislature16 Judicial Inspection Act No. 4-08890http://www.senato.it/japp/bgt/showdoc/showText?tipodoc=Sindisp&leg=16&id=695872
- SENATO DELLA REPUBBLICA Legislatura 17 Atto n. 4-01758 26 febbraio 2014 ; SENATE OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC Legislature 17 Judicial Inspection Act n. 4-01758 published on 26th February 2014, assembly n.198 ; SENAT DE LA REPUBLIQUE ITALIENNE Légisature 17me Acte de Sindacat Inspectif n . 4-01758 publiqué le 26 Février 2014 dans la réunion n. 198
- SENATE OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC Legislature 16 Judicial Inspection Act No. 4-08835
SENATE OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC Legislature 17 Judicial inspection Act. No. 4-00374http://www.senato.it/japp/bgt/showdoc/showText?tipodoc=Sindisp&leg=17&id=703752
CHILDREN AND CULTS excerpt from Recovery From Cults Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. Edited by Michael D. Langone. W. W. Norton, New York
NOTE (*) Freely extract from GNOSIS, Journal of the Italian Intelligence Serviceshttp://gnosis.aisi.gov.it/Gnosis/Rivista27.nsf/ServNavig/27?OpenDocument
NOTE (**) Report document by Antonio Pagliaro, Emeritus Professor of Criminal Law at University of Palermo) filed at 2nd Standing Judiciary Committee of the Senate within Consultation on the phenomenon of mental manipulation of vulnerable individuals with particular reference to the phenomenon of the so-called “cults” (years 2011-2012)